Song of the Day: Eric Dolphy – “Hat and Beard”

On this date in 1964, multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy recorded the album Out to Lunch in a single-day session at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in New Jersey. Joining him in the effort were vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, drummer Tony Williams (all of 18 years old at the time), and bassist Richard Davis. The album, Dolphy’s only leader recording for Blue Note Records, would go on to become his masterpiece, praised for the way merged the unfettered creativity of free-jazz with the tropes and structures of hard-bop and the blues.

Case in point: “Hat and Beard,” a tribute to pianist Thelonious Monk that employs dissonant harmonies, scattershot rhythms, and a wobbly, elastic melody in the service of good old-fashioned swing. The result is a distorted, fun-house-mirror version of mid-century jazz that nods at tradition with an irreverent wink.


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